If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:17-19)
Sometimes when I meditate on the crucifix suspended on the wall opposite my chair, my mind transports me to the place and time of my Lord's last hours.
It happened again this morning as I fingered a Rosary bead and thought about what Catholics call a "mystery of the Rosary" -- the flogging of Jesus.
As I let the image form in my mind of Christ standing at the whipping post, His hands tied above His head, I suddenly found myself standing at that very post. Only now it was my hands tied above my head. It was my back laid bare. It was my life that was about to end.
I turned my head and saw the Roman soldier standing a few feet away -- although I knew in the depths of my spirit it was Satan in the form of the soldier. He held a Roman whip -- strands of leather tied at the handle, each studded with chips of bone and rock. And he was readying himself to strike my back, to tear at me without mercy for the many deep and dark sins I committed in my life.
I turned away and winced in anticipation of the blow.
But it never came.
Instead, I sensed a presence move between me and the whip. The lash tore into flesh. A visceral groan spread into the dust-filled air.
And then Satan growled, "Get away from him. His sins have made him my property. He belongs to me!"
The voice behind me said quietly, but with palpable authority, "No, he doesn't. He belongs to me. I purchase him with my blood."
"Get away," the soldier hissed. A moment later the lash fell again, striking with a fury that terrified me. But the Presence moved closer, so close I felt the warmth of his body. He wrapped his arms around me, to protect me even more from the whip that fell again and again.
I heard each fall. I felt his body shudder with each blow. His blood splattered across the back of my neck. Some dripped from his shoulder onto mine.
Still tied to the post, I turned to see who it was protecting me. And when I saw Him, I could do nothing else but ask, "Lord, why are you doing this for me?"
He looked into my eyes and whispered, "Do you have to ask?"